Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bigger than Life:
As the Semester Comes to a Close...

...time is growing short in the Center for Cartoon Studies fall semester. I've only got two more weeks of teaching, including this week; it's been a productive and pretty amazing semester thus far, and I managed to cram the complete history of comics into this fall semester (I fell short last year, cheating the first-ever class out of the '80s and '90s -- my bad!).

It's been a lot of fun pulling together the final three weeks of lectures. Wherein the previous 10 weeks (David A. Berona was guest speaker for week 11, covering his field of expertise: the 'lost' graphic novels of the early 20th Century) were utterly dependent on scans, slides, passing around rare items and viewing the occasional video clip, packrat Bissette kept every scrap of video ever given to me throughout my years in comics, meaning these last three weeks have been brimming with video interviews, artifacts (the real Harvey Pekar/David Letterman appearances!) and news items (including some choice TV news attacks on comics from the '90s) that bring the respective participants, creators and events to vivid life.

It's also been a fascinating process, combing my collection for these clips and going through the selection process. Aside from the spectacle of seeing myself 10-15-20 years younger (which my wife Marge has savored a little too much), it's been a real trip down memory lane seeing younger incarnations of my friends and peers: John Totleben, Rick Veitch, Dave Sim, Scott McCloud, Frank Miller, Larry Marder, John Byrne, Diana Schutz, Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Jim Lawson and the whole Mirage Studios crew, Colleen Doran, Michael Zulli, Steve Murphy, Melinda Gebbie, Clive Barker and many no longer with us (including Julie Schwartz and the late Dave Cockrum) -- right on up to the Image years (1992-93 for me) and Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Jim Valentino, Erik Larsen and company. These folks and many others are among the potpourri of convention tapes, event tapes, news shows, ancient comics video productions from various corners of the country, including near-complete series (like TV Ontario's Prisoners of Gravity, compliments of co-producer and head writer Mark Askwith, the man who gave Taboo its name!).

Most odd of all for me personally has been seeing Alan Moore in various video clips and interviews, spanning our entire years together -- a decade-long friendship and professional relationship, it was, and I'm far enough along from the termination of that relationship a decade (yep!) ago that I can enjoy Alan's on-camera presence sans pain or anger. I miss him, but it's all OK now; nice to "see" him again.

Ah, the '90s.

Also among the clips is a young James Sturm -- before I knew him, though we first met sometime back there at San Diego Con or Bethesda or somewhere -- along with folks I only got to visit a couple of times, like Jim Woodring.

Some of this my students will see, some they won't -- a lot of useless, barely-audible convention video adds up to nothing of use in the classroom, though the footage sparks vivid memories for me. Still, it's been a trip working through all this material.

Given time, I'll make sure to copy all this material onto DVD and send it off to the HUIE Library/Henderson State Library Stephen R. Bissette Collection, fully annotated. That may necessitate viewings with cronies like Rick Veitch to confirm the facts (hell, my memory slips at times -- Bob Herr recently caught me on this very blog fucking up my own Swamp Thing comics collaboration credits, and Rick Veitch caught me last year forgetting entirely about our fleeting lunch with a whacked S. Clay Wilson here in Brattleboro, VT! How could I forget that? I did!). Anyhoot, point being, the CCS freshman are getting quite a snapshot of the last 30 years of comics via this video collection -- and it'll all be available to anyone able to visit HUIE's Bissette Collection down the road.

Ah, gotta run -- we've got a house closing to get to.

It's been quite a ride thus far, and it's about to get more intense... ciao for now!